According to newly released federal data from The Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (#CDC) cases of #hepatitis C infections have risen rapidly in the last five years in #America. The rise of this disease has destroyed families and is also catastrophic for state healthcare budgets.

The rise of Hepatitis C

The CDC announced that confirmed cases of Hepatitis C rose from 850 in 2010 to 2,346 in 2015, the most recent year with federal data. However, testing for the disease is limited, and it has few noticeable symptoms. This makes the CDC estimate that there were around 34,000 people who actually had the disease in 2015.

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They also said that almost 20,000 deaths in America last year were attributed to the disease. The CDC's data also showed that the biggest factor in the rise of Hepatitis C almost tripling in America was due to the opioid epidemic. Injecting opioids with needles among young people was found to be the largest contributing factor.

Affecting healthcare

With the rise of Hepatitis C across America, the cost of the drug to help with the disease has skyrocketed. This led states to restricting coverage of the drug because of its cost. Free needle exchanges have also faced funding challenges and opposition from groups who believe they foster drug use. At current prices, Louisiana's Medicaid program can only treat 300 patients with a generic form of the drug. Their health secretary wants to treat 73,000 people with the disease in Louisiana.

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In Kentucky, drug abuse has led to the disease rising almost 10x faster in young women than the rest of America. The amount of babies born to infected mothers rose by 124% in the state.

What is Hepatitis C?

Hepatitis C is a virus that is spread through contact with contaminated blood. This is why the opioid epidemic is the biggest factor in its rise, since one of the best ways for the virus to spread is by sharing needles. Once someone has the virus, it causes inflammation of the liver. If left untreated for too long, the disease can cause scarring of the liver or even liver cancer. The disease can even lead to liver failure. Within six months of exposure, Acute Hepatitis C can move into a long-term stage by becoming Chronic Hepatitis C.

As mentioned before the disease has few symptoms, since most people who have it may never experience any. Those who do develop symptoms may suffer from fatigue, nausea, loss of appetite, and yellowing of the skin and eyes.